The Old Oak by Ken Loach [9/10]

Famed for his social realism, Ken Loach waxes uncharacteristically sentimental (with tons of unsentimental, profane scenes of racism as balance) in The Old Oak, a tale of the solid, kind owner of a traditional, creaky old pub in an ex-mining village in Britain, helping out a busload of Syrian refugees. The story seems simple but Loach deftly portrays hidden aspects of the participants in the drama in a way that maintains tension until the end. The music score by George Fenton is a marvel, oblique and dramatic. The key to the film is the acting, and the lead role by George Fenton is blindingly realistic. He is wonderfully supported by Ebla Mari as the key Syrian with the most English, and the large supporting cast never miss a step. The Old Oak is a searing portrait of betrayed Britons reacting to decades of neglect by lashing out with virulent racism, the only path out being the realization of common humanity. Not nearly as bleak as many a Loach feature, it is nonetheless savage and the positive emotional tone is unfurled with marvelous cinematic brevity and clarity. Highly recommended.

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